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audio utility

Discussion in 'Fix This MIX!' started by youse, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. youse

    youse Active Member

    Here's Paul White from SOS talking about how he did a mix recently:

    "My approach to this mix combined my usual housekeeping chores and some core strategies, with other techniques adopted on the fly."

    It would be really interesting for me to compare my experience in these three categories with other people's experience. Anybody interested?

    A possible beginning: the usual housekeeping chores.

    * I put a highpass on just about everything I mic and get rid of low end stuff that contributes nothing except noise to the mix.

    * I use automation to silence the longer gaps between sounds.

    * For stuff like my amped and miked guitar, I use noise reduction to get rid of the amp hiss.

    * I color-code tracks to make it easier to navigate quickly and accurately around a multitrack mixing window.

    What are you doing in this category that I'm not?
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, something you might want to do is to take all of the things you've mentioned above, along with any other "standards" that you apply, and save them all into one template/file that you can reach for every time, as opposed to having to set all those things up individually each time you start a new mix/project.

    just a thought...

  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I have a technique in which I go about things. But I always vary from that as the project requires. And every project is different, in my realm. Even though there is housekeeping chores one normally does. So you never do any project the same way as you did for another. Unless of course, you are Steely Dan? And you've developed a sound that everybody expects. But who's to say, as you change out the equipment that you use, you still aren't doing things the same way? In a different way? I think you're trying to be too clinical Chris? It's a creative process. So other than tuning up your instrument, your playing style varies with the genre doesn't it? You're still tuning to the same note however.

    So is your process not working for you? It sounds like it is? Are you doubting yourself? You've said you're not a professional engineer but I think you are? You've certainly gone beyond the realm of a bedroom enthusiast or a basement enthusiast. And you have a musical background along with your musical skills, experience and knowledge. Of course you're a professional engineer. Maybe you're just not a rich guy that can afford a large and dedicated building? That doesn't make you any less professional.

    Back in the day, we all stuck marking tape above our faders. I had my own handful of colored Sharpies. Today we color our waveforms. Both figuratively and literally.

    For instance, his comment about adopting other techniques on the fly, would be like when I overdubbed string, Woodwind, brass sections et al., using no headphones on the musicians. Blaring the rhythm tracks through the studio speakers to be picked up by all the microphones. Later to be eliminated via phase inversion techniques.

    Or how about a Verdi Requiem for television where the director says he doesn't want to see a single microphone? And you know you need to use 14. So you'll do what ya have to do in your microphone selection, which changes your technique, all on the fly and no fixes. That's a broadcast engineering mindset. It's not a recording studio mindset. And it still has to sound as professional as any other of the best other engineers in the business. And if ya tell the director you Can't do it without that special are bored looking microphone put in an awkward looking shot, you're not the engineer for the job. So he and I both transcend that mindset. And I used both of my backgrounds to pull it off. Simply because, there is no other way to do it. So most of the microphones were either tie tack condenser microphones taped to music stands. Some were hung higher than I like to hang'em. I still got an Emmy nomination for audio engineering excellence. And ya can't see a single microphone anywhere in the video. And it's cool that I was using the Neve desk that I later purchased. So I got to test drive it for about 17 years. LOL. Then I can't say that I never won the lottery because I won the bid on the auction for that console. Twice LOL. It's the most money I ever won. And I didn't have to worry about spending one dollar for a ticket.

    So what are you really getting at?
    Mx. Remy Ann David

    Maybe I just don't understand your question? You know how damaged my grey matter is. So really what is your question?
  4. youse

    youse Active Member

    My name's not Chris. If the question I posted makes no sense to you, then don't bother trying to answer it. I think it's pretty clear, so I'm not going to try to make it clearer. I liked the story about the mini condensers taped to the music stands though. That would be an example of something done on the fly. I'm mostly interested in other people's 'core strategies' that Paul White talked about - the sort of thing that gets talked about in SOS magazine in their Mix Rescue column, for instance (if you ever read that).
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Excuse me for calling you Chris. I've had a similar banter with Chris. And while I'm not always right... I'm never wrong.

    I've enjoyed SOS when I picked it up at the AES in NYC. Sometimes get it at the computer store. I didn't subscribe to it. It's a good magazine. Good articles. British good. But I read everything else all the time. From the AES journals to DB Magazine in the early 1970s. Recording Engineer/Producer when it was around. EQ. Broadcasting Magazine. Film and video magazines. Computer magazines.

    Been reading MIX, since its release as a newspaper tabloid version just like Radio World. (Circa 1978) How about those ARRL magazines? No? I'm overflowing in magazines. I've read Howard M. Tremane's Audio Cyclopedia cover to cover dozens of times. So don't give me that stuff.

    You know what I'm talking about and I know what you're talking about. That's all that we have passion about. We're both right and we're both wrong. I respect you and you can respect me. We get to the same place taking different routes. I'm not here to stir up cat fights. What the F. is a core strategy really now? Core strategy my ass. The core strategy is to do a professional job and that's it. And I've been doing a professional job that way for over 40 years. I don't think about my core strategy. You just do it. And you wanted to know about core strategy. So you're getting it from somebody that has core strategies. We just don't call it that. It's called engineering. Your core strategy is to engineer. What planet did you come from? Because I know I didn't come from here myself. Which I've been able to ascertain by talking to you. So my apologies. We deal in the creative arts. People perform their art and craft however the little voices in their heads tell them to. And you know that. He was being interviewed for a magazine article. He had to say something. Or would you blather about microphone types and capacitors? You've never been involved in advertising or marketing have you? It's OK. This is what's expected. Your core strategy will change for every job you do. And you only had three questions? Only three? Or was that somebody else? I've been on the board too long today. Maybe you should have a drink and I will also.

    That was good. Think I'll have another. I only use Scotch when I'm recording digitally. Take that however you want. By the shot or by the reel. That's my core strategy. It's a good place to start and it's a fine place to end. With a couple of brewskis thrown into the middle. And what are the four things that are the most important things in our human existence on this planet?

    You and I are really friends... This is just a routine to entertain with.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

    (The answer to the last question is... having to do with the way we make babies. Involving items that we have illegally consumed or digested. Geology and industry. All that are known as S-E-X, DRUGS & ROCK 'N ROLL.Are we on board with that? I hope so... I don't want to smoke alone.

    OK... I'll smoke alone.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    Shortcuts are just that... Short. There is nothing that will get you out the gates faster than the raw source. Where to begin is at the source... Don't think right off the bat that you should be using noise reduction software on every mic'd guitar amp. Limit the number of times you process a track as each time it might generate artifacts. Never commit changes to a track file without having a backup ready to go to restore it to the original state. Sure you can have templates to start each session and name recorded files in conventional ways. The main thing is to keep it simple at first and move forward with each step, while keeping backups as you go. The more you commit to the original session will allow you divert back to it as you might screw it up.

    I agree with making EQ cuts on tracks at the source of the recording rather than later reaching for plugins. The point is that you need to know if that guitarist has a funky EQ on his amp. Change it and make sure he realizes why, as the general sound of the guitar is way more practical than what any high pass filter can fix. So do you want to just talk about lil short cuts or do you want to talk about each individual experience. However, there are times that plugins are used as templates such as compression or EQ. To say there are all these little universal shortcuts is silly as we all have different styles. So reading other people's shortcuts can be worthwhile, but don't take them as rule of thumb. My favorite shortcut is to know my equipment and dial in the gear effectively each time.

    Personally, "My approach to this mix combined my usual housekeeping chores and some core strategies, with other techniques adopted on the fly." this statement really is not concrete. I find most advice is giving in words and not true experience. So, what he is saying is valid but not in any way that applies to me. This is way too general and I really have no idea what he is talking about other than your points later on in the post. Basically, it's as if you want me to go on the net and then post all these catch phrases to show you something. It's just generic and not all that introspect. I guess if you linked to the web interview on this page so I could read it then more continuity to my post would follow. I just would like to give you more of an answer than "My approach to this mix combined my usual housekeeping chores and some core strategies, with other techniques adopted on the fly." I just want to know exactly the source here so I can better understand the question.
  7. youse

    youse Active Member

    RemyRAD: Thanks for the brewski musings. Mildly entertaining.
  8. youse

    youse Active Member

    It was in the 'Mix Rescue' column/article/section of December 2012 SOS magazine. It's not available for free on the web yet - I think it takes 6 months for that to happen.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Everything is cool. Everything is good. We're friends here.

    I'm with Doc. And he expresses himself so much more eloquently than I can.

    My line of work as an audio, broadcast and maintenance engineer is quite broad ranging. And everything that I do does require some kind of core strategy. When you're maintaining equipment, you have one core strategy. When you design a control room you're dealing with a different core strategy. When you record somebody in the studio, that's another core strategy. When you're working on live network television, that's a very different core strategy. And then all of the sub core strategies beneath the main core strategy has to be realized. It's a complex question with no simple answers. The simplest answer is we engineer. It's our job. It's all we think about. The core strategy may be something that is not directly considered but is directly implemented as a normal course of action. And it's different for every application.

    Let's delve into a music recording session core strategy?

    The first thing that needs to be in place first and foremost is that your control room and the studio has been normalized from a previous session. This has nothing to do with an audio file being normalized. It just means that all of the controls on all of the equipment have been sent back to their null point. Microphones on the shelf. Cordes rolled up and hanging on the wall. A clean control room.

    Time to set up the band for tracking the basic tracks. You know your room better than they do so you indicate a workable arrangement of where you'd like them to be in your acoustic space a.k.a. studio. But you want to hear the band first. You want to hear them just play live in the studio as you stand there with them in the studio. I want to see and hear how they perform and play before I hear them through any microphones or speakers. I want to hear their instruments in person, carefully. I might request that the drummer re-tune his drums higher or lower or more damping, stuff like that.

    Sometimes guys who play guitar walk in with giant double Marshall stacks. WTF you need that in the studio for? So then you point to your little single speaker Marshall amplifier and tell the guitarist to plug into that instead. They're not on stage. During the studio. We do it differently than when you're on stage. And now, after listening to them in person, in the studio, you can begin your preferred microphone selection core strategy. And knowing this too shall likely change. But you've got to start somewhere right?

    On to the next core strategy. Now you want to hear the band with the microphones and through the speakers. You push up a live mix. You roll the multitrack machine. The band gathers then in the control room. And you play back the first utterances and evaluate and discuss what you are listening to with the band. If they're happy? Great. Onward and upward. If they want changes made and you deemed it necessary also, changes are made and the process is repeated.

    Now you've got some basic rhythm tracks down. On to the next core strategy. Overdubbing. And how you might want to go about that? This is where all hell breaks loose. There is no core strategy for this. You've got a lead singer so you put out three or four microphones on the lead singer. And you might be plugging those microphones into some dynamics processing? I usually do that whether I'm recording analog or digital. And you might print some tweaked EQ as well. I usually do that. Sometimes it's cut EQ sometimes boost EQ sometimes both. But never radical or aggressively during tracking. You go lightly. And my core strategy changes during this stage/process for the different musicians and genres and styles of whatever it is I'm recording. String sections, woodwind sections brass sections, and I like to wear headphones. Everybody makes him wear headphones. I don't. They don't wear any in my studio. They like that a lot. And other engineers cannot seem to conceptualize or comprehend how to do this without screwing up all of the sound? And they spent $40,000 to get a piece of paper from University telling everybody they know about recording. They don't. They have no concept. No idea. They don't even understand the musicians. The only know what they have been taught and that's all they do or know. Real engineers aren't like that. I'm certainly not. And so those $40,000 grads have learned nothing. They've only learn how to write down the right answers on a test. And that's academia. I don't do academia. I don't care for the way academia works. They're not smart people. They're teachers. Some are passed hit recording engineers. Most aren't. Mostly it's the blind leading the blind which is how academia generally functions. And that's OK. But that's only part of an education. The rest comes from experience and you can't teach experience. It has to be lived by the person doing it. And rarely can anyone on their first try, come up with a superb major award nominated recording. I've done that three times over and more. First time out. George Massenburg didn't even get a major award nomination on his first submission. I've gotten three on first-time submissions. I'm not saying I'm better than George. I have my own talent. I'm only using that as an example of superb on your feet, out of the box, hard-nosed engineering. And that's what I do. That's not what George does. He is in a different realm of production and only in a single realm. I cover over three realms. And so, my skill, experience knowledge and expertise goes beyond George in many ways. He might be a finer engineer than I when you can work on a single song for months for a week? Mine have to be generated in 60 seconds. Because the directors are going 3, 2, go to black, we're up. And I don't think George knows how to work that way? It's not what he does. It's what I do. But I also do what he does. But he doesn't do what I do. What's that tell ya? That doesn't make him any more or less than me and I'm not any more or less than him. Yet we both use different core strategies. All of which works for us, well.

    Now you're ready to mix. What's the core strategy for that? Well... having already recorded and overdubbed the musicians, you've actually been mixing as you've gone along with the project. And now it's time to connect all the dots together. As has been indicated, by others, you start high pass filtering things first. Then you tweak the mix again. Then you start adding or subtracting additional EQ for a finer polish. Then you start adding your other dynamic range processing on whatever you deem necessary. And you tweak your mix again. Everybody comes in if they're not in already and you have another production meeting upon playback. That is, if you are an engineer/producer that likes working that way? There are other guys that won't allow anybody to be present during their mixing session. And the band doesn't mind that because they wanted that engineer and his sound. They have put their faith and their dollars into that engineer to deliver a product.

    Other bands are very deeply involved self producing. This can have mixed blessings. I don't like it and I generally refuse to work with clients that want to dictate my engineering. No. You can leave thank you. I want to give the band what they want. After all they are the customer. And I have delivered plenty of simply awful recordings to bands that wanted things a certain way. Because I was just a staff engineer at his studio, ya don't argue with the client. You give them what they want right or wrong. After all you are charging by the hour generally or by a block booked package. When you're a staff engineer at a studio.

    It's different if the band comes to you as an engineer/producer. And so then you would have a different core strategy. And I prefer to work that way. Which is another reason why I built my own facility. I'm in charge. I'm the boss. And I know what I'm doing. The band doesn't. Many of these bands back in the day were simply cover bar bands that needed demos. And that I actually liked doing a lot. I play their songs by the original artists on the number one FM radio station in Baltimore in my younger years. So I intimately know how those cuts sound. Sometimes I would ask the band to bring in recordings of the originals. And it was my job to match them as closely as I could to the originals, in less than 20 minutes. It takes a special kind of engineer like myself, to work this way. I can actually emulate George's engineering LOL. And many others. And that only comes with a very intimate knowledge and close relationship with your equipment and yourself. Sounds a little kinky doesn't it? It is. We live in a most peculiar world.

    One of my favorites was for WHFS, FM and for some early 1997 Internet streaming TV service. It was the Counting Crows at Meriwhether Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. And one of the few times it had been requested of me to insert a stereo bus limiter by the FM station because their live Telos, ISDN, MP3 real-time digital coder, their chief engineer felt overloaded easily on its inputs? OK. I had been provided with the groups current release CD the day before. I don't normally listen to the radio so I knew about them but that was about all. And I kind of enjoyed their CD. Really didn't care much for the group overall.

    In this particular job, I had the luxury of a rehearsal sound check. Never had that in my other live jobs LOL. Try pushing up a hit sounding recording without a microphone check in 30 seconds? So that does not involve a core strategy. That requires real talent and a real command of your equipment. One of Adam's directive to me was " no reverb at all. Completely dry." OK. So I switched off my 5 digital reverbs. No problem. When he came back into listen, he got really upset with me. Why? Because of all of this reverb all over the recording. He yelled at me. " I said I didn't want any reverb!". I looked at Adam and said " Adam, I switched off all of my reverbs. You are hearing the natural acoustic signature of this incredible outdoor pavilions stage made out of wood. I can't take out from the air what's in the air." And he was shocked? I was actually dumbfounded by his reaction? Had he never heard a live recording of his band before this? I didn't ask him that. And I even had all eight of my noise gates in full operation. They were on all of the drums. They were on the vocals. And they help to illuminate that reverb. Yet it was drowning in reverb LOL.

    The truly funny thing happened when I played the live version of their cuts and chop them together with their studio CD cuts. I played this for other people. Who's mix do you think they chose? The one that sounded real that sounded alive that sounded organic, mine. Want to hear for yourself? And is a very close representation of how their studio album actually sounded. Accomplished in 20 minutes mixing time of the rehearsal. Try that folks. You'll go down in flames guaranteed LOL. And so I can't even tell you what my core strategy was for that? There wasn't any core strategy. It's just something ya do. And that's why I was going off the way I was over your question. This is what top shelf, highly experienced and seasoned engineers must do. You don't even think about your core strategies because it's something you have developed a technique of over time. So in many ways, your question was a creative non sequitur.

    If I was to be interviewed for a magazine article, my explanations and her rhetoric would likely be quite different from our interactions here. I would have to have a core strategy as to how I wanted the direction of this interview to progress as. And I might speak in generalities and generic references? Because how is any layperson supposed to understand about why I wanted that 57 on the cowbell and not a condenser microphone. I don't have to explain myself to anyone. But for a magazine article, what are you going to say? I've also worked as a newscaster, newsperson in my broadcast career. And I know how to write a news story. What other recording engineer knows how to write a news story? See? The core strategy is simply to be a professional at what I do. There isn't any other choices. There isn't anything else to think about. There really aren't any core strategies. As I said it's just the normal course of being a competent engineer.

    In the studio, everybody has their own way of doing things good or bad right or wrong hit or miss. As you can tell, I love to talk shop and I love debates. And as I have said in the past, I'm not always right but I'm never wrong because I am a professional and I deliver a professional product without any core strategies that I actually have to think about. At my level of knowledge, experience and professionalism it becomes instinct. And there is no core strategy behind instinct. This is how all good professional engineers function. You might keep very detailed notes on what you're doing so you can reproduce it each time again? You might be more free-form, spontaneous as I am? But at the same time, your core strategy just kicks in automatically without any real thought behind it. It's what I do. It's what I am. It's all I've ever done. And I've never worked any other jobs other than broadcasting or the recording arts and sciences. I've been extremely lucky. I love the work that I do and I can't get enough of it. I don't care if I work 16 hour days at this. Can't get enough of it. Unfortunately, today, the economy, the technologies, the business plans, the record labels, the radio stations... it's all gone. And what kind of core strategies do I have to contend with that? I don't. I'm lost. I feel like a failure even though I know I'm not. It's not me. It's the times. And I'm not happy about it. I feel like that guy ya saw on the news who had all four of his limbs blown off by an IED terrorist attack. That's how I feel right now no legs, no arms, no hands. A beautiful control room unlike anyone else's except the very rich and I can't record anything. Not that I couldn't. But there's no one to record in this mid-Atlantic void but doesn't want to do it in their basement with a little thingy they purchased from Guitar Box. And they don't know how I get my sounds. So they want to know what my core strategies are so they can get what they want also. And I'll show them how to do it on the cheapest crappy equipment you could possibly imagine. And people's miles just fall open. They just cannot understand how cheap PA stuff and cheap microphones can sound as good as my recordings coming off of my Neve and all of my vintage processing expenses microphones? How is that possible? I'll show ya. It's easy. Requires very little thought and no core strategies LOL. It's just what ya do.

    I hope you enjoyed that? Few people have done or accomplished what I have. Now while I might sound conceited? Yeah... I am conceited. Because I can be. Because I can back it up with proof and examples. And I can show you how to do it also. Because I'm also an excellent teacher. So when upset magic little baggie with that green stuff in it and I'll show you how to get to Strawberry Fields forever.

    Sir George Martin offered me a maintenance job and I declined because I'm an idiot also LOL.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. youse

    youse Active Member

    About a short paragraph of all that you wrote was pertinent, but I liked the story about the natural reverb. Plus, you've helped me answer a question I had about this site when I got here - thanks.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Well thank you very much. I like kind words.

    I apologize for my long-winded stories and such. It's fun to be good at this and especially when you are rewarded with lovely work. Nothing finer. And while in much of it may not have been pertinent, I only run at the mouth, to try and provide a deeper understanding of the tools that you are using and how it related to those recordings and times of your predecessors. Nothing much has changed in the pursuit of musical and musical engineering excellence. And also because our brains are so unique that you might remember something that was not pertinent when it suddenly becomes pertinent? So while your little synapses are dancing happily to the beat of your drum, that other information? It's sitting in the Crock Pot waiting until all of the flavors now have blended together over a nice long period of time. But you can't wait too long... because you have these awful munchies from all this crock and all that pot.

    So get up and brush yourself off...
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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